The search for a 2 1/2 year-old boy who was led away from a market in southern Mexico three weeks ago led police to a horrifying discovery: 23 abducted children being kept at a house and forced to sell trinkets in the street. Prosecutors in Chiapas state said Tuesday that most of the children were between two and 15 years old, but three babies aged between 3 and 20 months were also found during a raid Monday at the house in the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas, the AP reports. San Cristobal is a picturesque, heavily Indigenous city that is popular among tourists. It is not unusual to see children and adults hawking local crafts like carvings and embroidered cloth on its narrow cobblestone streets. But few visitors to the city suspected that some of the kids doing the selling had been snatched from their families and kept in deplorable conditions.
The Chiapas state prosecutors' office said in a statement that the children “were forced through physical and psychological violence to sell handicrafts in the center of the city,” adding the kids showed signs of “malnutrition and precarious conditions.” “According to the children, many of them were forced to go out on the streets to sell things, and moreover they were forced to return with a certain minimum amount of money for the right to get food and a place to sleep at the house,” said state prosecutor Jorge Llaven. According to video presented by the prosecutors, many of the children slept on what appeared to be sheets of cardboard and blankets on a cement floor. Three women have been detained in the case and may face human trafficking and forced labor charges. Tragically, the little boy police were originally looking for was reportedly not among those found.
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